Quick Hits 3/31/09

Walking from MemphisMemphis UAB Basketball

It is coming across the wire that John Calipari has agreed to terms and will be the coach of the Kentucky Wildcats.  Calipari took some time, but in the end it was not much of a decision.  It is Kentucky, enough said.  Like UNC, Duke, UCLA,  and Kansas, this is the job you dream about.  The possibility to coach at a school with tradition as rich as Kentucky, is a what coaches work towards there whole career.

Calipari has made Memphis into the powerhouse that it is – a very good program that will dominate C-USA and will have to fight to a No. 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA.  But at Kentucky, if you win either then regular season or the tourney, you are guaranteed a No. 1 seed.

  • But you must win championships or you will be forced out (i.e. Smith, Tubby – thanks crazy Kentucky fans).

I do think Calipari could have become a legend at Memphis, but would struggle to win a championship.  If Calipari is able to bring any of his players and recruits with him, the Wildcats will be a contender and the favorite to win the SEC NEXT season (that might be a not-so-subtle statement on the state of the SEC, but he is that good at changing the culture.)

Curry to Duke

The nation’s leading freshman scorer, Seth Curry, is packing his bags and heading to Cameron Indoor Stadium.  Curry will not be able to play until the 2010-11 season, but will be joining a talented and deep Blue Devil squad – that depends on who returns.

Maybe Seth could convince his brother to sit out next season and join him at Duke in 2010.  I mean, Stephen is the a big reason he is getting interest from Duke in the first place.

 

Draft Declarers

The majority of college basketball players are at home watching, just like me.  But unlike me, many are being tempted by agents and who will paint a picture of teams throwing money at these young men like they have never seen before.

That is why I consider this the time when student athletes can ruin their lives, by making really stupid choices for all the right reasons.  So, unless you are one of the guaranteed top 10-15 picks, DO NOT HIRE AN AGENT and please weigh the options, carefully.

Everyone who does not have the last name Evans, please proceed with caution.

Here is the list of the latest players to declare for the draft:Tyreke Evans

  1. Nick Calathes, guard from Florida
  2. DaJuan Summers, forward from Georgetown
  3. Brandon Costner, forward from North Carolina State
  4. B.J. Mullens, center from Ohio State
  5. Tyreke Evans, guard from Memphis
  6. Gerivis Vasquez, guard from Maryland

This would be a awesome six man line-up.

Things to Come:

  • Break downs of both Final Four Games – Matthew will be look at the UNC/Villinova match-up and I will take the UConn/MSU game.
  • Finale of DTP Bracket Challenge - a last look at the sad state of bracket.
  • Recap of my Preseason Picks – some good, some bad.  All in all, I can’t complain.

DTP Bracket Challenge: Final Four

After the complete collapse of Louisville, I am completely screwed – I was routing for the Spartans.

Oh well, there is always next year.  From here on out, I am routing for a Michigan State/North Carolina rematch – expect this time Tom Izzo gets another title.

Rank Team Name Score Correct Best Score Best Correct Champion
1 Katie 75 45 80 46 Duke (151)
2 Steve
74 44 85 46 Connecticut (141)
2 Tom 74 43 85 45 North Carolina (129)
2 Vincent 74 43 74 43 Pittsburgh (159)
5 Eric 69 44 69 44 Pittsburgh (135)
6 Daniel 68 46 68 46 Louisville (153)
6 Matt 67 45 67 41 Louisville (163)
8 Anna 56 32 56 35 Louisville (162)

Sweet 16 – Day 2 Preview

Well day 1 of the sweet 16 brought some surprises.  Apparently Missouri has a good basketball team.  And Duke seemed to forget that the round, orange thing is supposed to go into the round metal thing placed 10-feet above the floor with a net hanging from it.  But let’s talk about tonight.

Game 1: Arizona vs. Louisville

Louisville hasn’t exactly walked through their first two games, similar to Pitt.  However, their defense causes just enough chaos to get by, and I’m sure that will be the case tonight.  While Arizona has a future lottery pick in Jordan Hill, the ride for the 12-seeded Wildcats is over.  They weren’t supposed to get past the first round (or make the tourney, for that matter), so kudos to them on wearing this year’s glass slipper.  The only thingblake2 that could get in the way of Louisville’s advancing is their free-throw shooting.  Their best player, Terrence Williams, shoots an embarrassing 57% from the charity stripe. 

Prediction:  Louisville 68, Arizona 59

Game 2: Oklahoma vs. Syracuse

This is tonight’s best game in my opinion.  We get to see player of the year Blake Griffin take on a very tough team in Syracuse.  I will be cheering for Oklahoma as I really like how Griffin plays the game, but I don’t think they can handle Jonny Flynn and the Orange.  The Big East has been impressive thus far, and Syracuse is as good as their conference peers.  Something to keep in mind, however, is that Griffin is averaging 30.5 ppg so far in the tourney, and Syracuse won’t have an answer if he starts taking over.

Prediction:  Syracuse 76, Oklahoma 72

Game 3: Kansas vs. Michigan St.

It will be fun to watch Sherron Collins vs. Kalin Lucas.  Both are very quick point guards, although Collins could easily pound Lucas in a fight. Michigan St. won the teams’ first meeting on Jan 10 by a convincing 13-points, but I think that will change tonight.  Cole Aldrich has turned into a serious beast in the paint (remember colehim handling Hansbrough last year?), and he will be the difference after he posts a solid 20 & 12 tonight.

Prediction:  Kansas 63, Michigan St. 56

Game 4: Gonzaga vs. North Carolina

Can Gonzaga take advantage of UNC’s achilles heel?  Or, in this case, Ty Lawson’s toe?  While Psycho-T gets a lot of attention, it’s clear that Lawson is the one that makes this team tick.  I’m cheering for the Zags, but the Tar Heels will advance.

Prediction:  UNC 81, Gonzaga 68

In future Division I basketball news, the Hopkins boys team won their semi-final game last night despite their opponent, undefeated St. Cloud Tech, employing a complete stall of the game (no shot clock in MN).  Hopkins led at halftime 16-15.  They went on to win by about 20.  

DTP Brakcet Challenge: Sixteen

After the first day of the sweet sixteen, Vincent made a huge leap.  He picked Missouri AND Villanova.  You will notice that Katie’s best score is the lower for 4th place, because she picked Duke as the champ, and obviously the will not be.

I however picked Duke and Memphis, even though I was routing for Missouri.  Today I am banking on a couple of upsets with Gonzaga and Syracuse, and hoping Louisville will play like the over all No. 1 seed.

Rank Team Name Score Correct Best Score Best Correct Champion
1 Daniel 61 44 102 54 Louisville (153)
1 Vincent
61 39 105 50 Pittsburgh (159)
3 Eric 59 41 94 50 Pittsburgh (135)
4 Katie 58 40 87 48 Duke (151)
5 Tom 57 38 97 48 North Carolina (129)
6 Matt 54 37 94 47 Louisville (163)
6 Steve 54 38 89 47 Connecticut (141)
8 Anna 46 32 83 41 Louisville (162)

Sweet 16 – Day 1 Preview

Big night of basketball ahead of us.  Some very nice match-ups and potential for…what’s the word….yes, madness

Game 1:  UConn vs. Purdue

The Big East can be defined by superior athletes, the Big 10 can be defined by half-court offense and a lot of white guys (maybe half-court offense and white guys are synonymous).  Purdue has had a nice tourney so far, but I don’t see it going any further than tonight.  I really like JaJuan Johnson and their coach, but they can’t handle UConn’s power.  Although…it will be interesting to see how UConn handles the latest recruiting allegations.  levance

Prediction:  UConn 84, Purdue 71

Game 2:  Pitt vs. Xavier

Pitt has had close calls in both of the early rounds and I think this has a chance to be a great game.  Xavier is actually taller than Pitt at just about every position, and they’ve got a big-time stud in B.J. Raymond.  Although my heart wants to pick Xavier, I’m gonna take Pitt for my bracket’s sake.  I don’t think the Muskateers have an answer for Pitt’s poing guard Levance Fields

Prediction:  Pitt 74, Xavier 72

Game 3:  Memphis vs. Missouri

I think Memphis is going to the final four.  I think they’ll win by 15 tonight. 

Prediction:  Memphis 79, Missouri 64

Game 4:  Duke vs. VillanovaGerald Henderson

This should be the game of the night.  It has the biggest upset potential (even though it’s a 2 vs. 3 game), and has some great athletes on display.  Duke has a 3-headed scoring machine in Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer, and Kyle Singler.  ‘Nova has a stud in Daunte Cunningham that could really give Duke some problems inside with his athleticism.  In recent history, Duke has had trouble with teams who are filled with athletes, and that certainly qualifies with ‘Nova’s roster.  But even though ‘Nova may have a more athletic squad as a whole, the best athlete in the tourney not named Blake Griffin happens to be Gerald Henderson

Prediction:  Duke 71, Villanova 65

High School Update:  For those of you who don’t know, I live in Hopkins, MN, which is home to one of the top-5 (ranked #4) high school boys basketball teams in the country.  Yesterday they won their first round game of the state tourney by 42 points.  Their entire starting line-up is going D-1, as well as a couple of reserves.  People are claiming (and legitimately so) that this Hopkins team has the best starting 5 in Minnesota high school basketball history.  I’m already planning on attending their state championship game this Saturday.

Block or Charge: The Most Difficult Call in Basketball

They can it a “bang-bang” play.  It happens so fast.  But don’t worry.  No one is dead, but there are probably a body or two on the floor staring blankly at the refs as the refs stare at each other with the “did you get that” look of fear in their eyes.

The block or charge call is the most difficult in all of basketball, and maybe in all of sports.  Many variables have to line-up at the moment one player collides into another player, all which a ref must process to decide what gesture he makes.

Was the defender moving ?  Was his feet set?  Did the offensive player lead with his shoulder?  Did the defender come under the offensive player as he was landing?  Was the player outside the circle?  Do I count the basket?

Between the  first weekend of  the NCAA tourney and the NIT, there were plenty of games in prime-time, and refs have had to make the dreaded call.  Mostly recently was last night, Penn State playing at Florida in the NIT quarter-finals.  Side-Note:  the Gator crowd was rockin’ and was treated to a great game.

Late in the game PSU guard Talor Battle drove baseline, left his feet for a finger-roll, and Florida guard Nick Calathes set his feet and prepared for the hit while Battle was in the air.  What is the call?  The ref called a charge, but counted the basket.

WHAT?

There are a handful of variations of the call, this however, is the most idiotic variation of the “most difficult call” – which will be refer to as “the call” from this point forward.

The PSU guard made a good move, started his shot legally, but was called illegal because another player moved underneath him prior to Battle landing safely, which he could not do because a player was in the way.  But it must not have been that illegal, because the ref counted the basket.

Even the commentators were miffed by “the call” – granted they have the luxury of a second look at the play in slow-motion – and they made their options known.  Many commentators have been very vocal in this conversation.  I vaguely remember a Jeff Van Gundy rant about this topic a few months ago when ESPN swapped announcers, putting the NBA crew with Van Gundy on the Duke vs. Davidson game.

Side-Note:  I was not a Van Gundy fan when he was coaching, but I think he is just crazy enough to be entertaining as a broadcaster.

The NBA has made steps to take some variables out of “the call”.  By putting the half circle on the floor, a couple of feet out from the bottom of the net and calling it the “restricted area”, the call becomes much easier.  No matter if the defender is set, if his feet are touching that line, it is a block.  Plan and simple.

In the NBA, almost every player can jump outside of the lane and land in that “under the basket” area and the possibility of injury is greater.  Not so in college.

Another important aspect of “the call” that is over looked is the defenders right to that same space.  To say that the offensive player has more right to that spot on the court is absurd.  yet, that unconscious prejudice affects the way the call is made.

If a ref is “bias” in that they believe the offensive player is dictating the action, then the call is simple, read the reaction of the defender to the action of the offensive player.  Depending on what transpires, the call is quite obvious.  But if you believe that the defensive player is predicting a move prior to the offensive move happening, then it is the defender who dictates the action and then the reaction.

That is an extreme simplification of the call, but is exactly what I found when searching for some definition regarding “the call”.  Take a look at this post from NBA.com.

The post from NBA.com is dated 2001 and directory speaks to the ability for a player to land and even change direction when outside the lower box.  By that definition, the call against Battle against Florida was incorrect.  Even if he landed around the basket, his move was initiated outside the lane.  While this maybe be the rule in college, it does not seem to have that level of detail.  I did search for the NCAA rules, but what unable to find the rulebook online.

No matter what the call maybe, they greater issue may be the fact that “the call” varies greatly from game to game and ref to ref.  Which leads the the single most important trait in a referee: consistency.

From call to call, players and coaches are part of a guessing game to determine how the refs will call the game.  Every call leaves a small portion of interpretation, i.e. carrying, traveling, and three seconds in the lane.  But that amount of interpretation seems to vary great when the refs will allow a certain amount of physical play in the first half, but then could call a hand check in the second half.  And we all have seen it.

There have been many articles and quotes that have debated this issue to now end.  Yet, the block/charge issue is becoming dangerous. As players get stronger and faster, there is a need to limit the variation and solidify a standard that will stop the players looking for the easy charge (We won’t even go into flopping – whole other issue).

With greater concistency and preparation, payers will no longer be rewarded for sneaking over to anticapte the landing point of a player in the air.  Or an offensive player who lowers the shoulder, expecting a block call.  The charge/block is the call that needs consistency, period.  With a few, specific changes, “the call” will not be so difficult.

Madness and Poll

If you could “re-pick” one game of the first weekend of The Madness on your offical brakcet, what game would it be?

It is between either USC or Wake Forrest.  I am not saying I would have picked them against Cleveland State, but I would then not have picked them to beat Louisville.  But I had USC beating Kansas as well.  I should never pick them, I picked them to do well last year and the failed with O.J. Mayo.  And Tim Floyd’s finest failed without him this year. 

Is it weird that the former Trojan’s name is all about food?

The first rounds was not as crazy as in years past, but I thought it was full of solid games.  Kansas looks like the toughest two-person team in the tourney.  Louisville still scares me (and not in the good way).  PITT looked vulnerable in both games and UConn did not. 

I like Gonzaga and Syracuse to advance to Elite Eight – but I would not be surprised if I was completely wrong.    Syracuse is riding a wave of good play and they have good guards – love me some Johny Flynn.  Oklahoma is the best one person team left in the tourney.  UNC is UNC, but against better teams, they need Lawson. 

Duke has played well, but is not deep.  Memphis looks like it could struggle to score, but plays tough “D”.  And I don’t know what to think about Michigan State and Purdue.  MSU has the best chance to win their next game – Purdue plays UConn.  Kansas is good, but MSU wins most of the individual match-ups.  The one and a half  match-ups that MSU doesn’t win, the talent drop off is not as great.  Unlike the match-ups that the Spartans have over Kansas.

Here are my Final Four Picks from my brakcet:  Louisville, UConn, PITT and Gonzaga.

My thoughts outside of the bracket:  Still like UConn, but everyone else is beatable. 

Sleeper Final Four Pick:  Syracuse. 

Team(s) I am Pulling For:  Duke, Arizona, and the winner of the South Region (Oklahoma, Gonzaga or Syracuse).